Friday, April 30, 2010

When Smart People Say Stupid Things: Stephanie Grace, Harvard Law School, and Why Black People are Genetically Inferior

I will leave this one for you all to discuss.

Apparently, insert gasp and shock, some relatively smart folk (Question: Is being book smart the same as being intelligent?) think that black people are genetically inferior to white people. And guess what? Said person--Miss Stephanie Grace--is at Harvard Law and they communicate said message via a mass email. Like a rock in a pond there are now so many ripples. The Dean gets involved, apologies are issued for hurt feelings, and an obligatory "conversation" about race must ensue.

Maybe I just have tough skin, but when I see these types of stories I do have to shake my head and leave my racism chasing shoes in the closet. Why? Primarily because I am always astounded by how Americans believe themselves to be experts on race by virtue of it being our national obsession. Second, I love it when ostensibly smart people say stupid things and operate outside of their area of expertise. Miss Grace may have conducted some preliminary research on racial attitudes among college students, but that does not make her an expert on biology, genetics, or the science of race--to the degree it is science--more generally. Likewise, I may know a whole lot about one little slice of Black cultural politics, but that does not make me an expert on 18th century slave systems in the Chesapeake Bay area.

First question: When did black folk get so weak and thin skinned? Why doesn't the Harvard Black Law Students Association (assuming they have not) offer up a proper response? One grounded in the decades of research that refutes Miss Grace's assertion? Moreover, that IQ tests themselves do not measure "intelligence" per se, and that Miss Grace was operating from a set of fallacy laden assumptions. To paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, by pursuing the hurt feelings angle "this is how we lost to the White people."

Second question: What of freedom of speech? Being provocative, isn't the freedom to say what one will, also a license to be stupid? Finally, I am not a fan of apologies. Sometimes folks should stand their ground and own the consequences of their words. Am I unreasonable in that I would have found it refreshing if Stephanie Grace said, "yes, I believe that Black people are genetically prone to be less intelligent than white people. I will own that statement...and the consequences professionally and personally." Am I doubly more unreasonable to have hoped that someone would have then proceeded to open a can of intellectual, empirically driven whoop ass on her metaphorical behind?

Full text of Stephanie Grace's e-mail

An e-mail sent by a Harvard Law student that questioned the intelligence of blacks caused outrage when it was leaked and spread on the Internet this week. Here is the full text of the original e-mail message written by Harvard Law student Stephanie Grace to her two friends, followed by a letter from Harvard Law dean Martha Minow, and Grace's apology.

".. . .. I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don't think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn't mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don't think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to "explain" away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me.''

"Dear members of the Harvard Law School community:

I am writing this morning to address an email message in which one of our students suggested that black people are genetically inferior to white people.

This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student's comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.

As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community. For BLSA, repercussions of the email have been compounded by false reports that BLSA made the email public and pressed the student's future employer to rescind a job offer. A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding. The BLSA leadership brought this view to our meeting yesterday, and I share their wish to turn this moment into one that helps us make progress in a community dedicated to fairness and justice.

Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.

I am heartened to see the apology written by the student who authored the email, and to see her acknowledgement of the offense and hurt that the comment engendered.

I would like to thank the faculty, administrators, and students who have already undertaken serious efforts to increase our chances for mutual understanding, confrontation of falsehoods, and deliberative engagement with difficult issues, and making this an ever better community.


Martha Minow"

The text of the apology that Stephanie Grace sent to the leadership of Harvard's Black Law Students Association:

"I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.

I emphatically do not believe that African Americans are genetically inferior in any way. I understand why my words expressing even a doubt in that regard were and are offensive.

I would be grateful to have an opportunity to share my thoughts and to apologize to you in person.

Even beforehand, I want to extend an apology to you and to anyone else who has been hurt by my actions."

Eurocentrism Reigns Supreme: Arizona Legislature Bans Ethnic Studies Programs

States that the Legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.


States that the Legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.

Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:

Promote the overthrow of the United States government.

Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

States that if the SBE determines that a school district or charter school is offering a course that violates this act, the SBE must direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Superintendent) to notify the school district or charter school that it is in violation.

The classroom is and has always been a political space.

This is a textbook example of Eurocentrism and Whiteness in action--and the irony here is priceless. Pursuant to this new law, children of color and their parents in Arizona should sue to demand that funding be cut off to most public schools because from American history to English to Science and the Arts, the curriculum as presently taught devalues people of color, encourages White solidarity, is designed to reinforce Whiteness as the "normal" and "preeminent" state of being, and generates resentment on the part of those left out of America's grand narrative.


Last week Arizona instituted draconian laws that were designed to curb illegal immigration. In an effort to one up themselves, the state legislature has now passed a resolution banning "Ethnic Studies" programs in public schools. Once more, for those of you who are not connecting the dots between white racial resentment and the Tea Party movement; resurgent White Nationalism in the moments since Obama's election; and White anxiety about the "browning of America," here is another data point.

When the tea baggers and the Vox Right Wing Populi harp on about taking "their America back," those dead-enders do in fact want to take America back to the good old days when black and brown folk were silent and obedient--at least as seen by the gaze of the White imagination:

Although this bill is initially limited to public schools, one should make careful note of the language. "Ethnic Studies" is a particular nomenclature that almost universally applies to colleges and universities. On one hand, as someone who loosely works in Ethnic Studies I am emboldened and pleased that the essentially political nature of our work is identified as such by our enemies:

This is validating in a way. However, I am also chilled because this new law signals an increasing escalation in the assault on academic freedom and free thinking in American society. Moreover, these assaults are a further signpost on the road to a corporate, bottom line, lucre and profit oriented approach to higher education that results in lower quality instruction, poorly trained students, and ultimately, a less competitive economy.

There is a frightening coincidence of interests at this moment. The enemies of tenure, those such as David Horowitz and his ilk who rail against "liberal professors," and the minions of folk such as Ward Connerly and others who work lockstep against the "diversity business" are certainly sharpening their knives at the announcement of this new law. How long until they come for private and public universities and colleges?

To what ends will this slippery slope lead? Who will the Know Nothings, and the neo-John Birther tea baggers and their allies come for next?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Morning Funny: The People's Court--Black Nationalist Sisters Abusing White Man with Whips and High Heels is Funnier than Pastor Manning

And the brothers think they have it hard.

I have seen the face of greatness and it is this video. I am at a loss for words. I stand mute. The part of my brain responsible for speech has been overridden by the part of my brain responsible for laughter.

Respectable negroes and our allies please circulate this video widely and often. If you have the strength that I do not, please write an analysis and/or annotation so that I may post it. A focus on the clip's Avant-garde sensibilities would be much appreciated.

Question: Who has the power here? The moaning white man being topped by the Black Woman's Court or the sisters themselves? Is our White friend topping from the bottom?

Second questions: Imagine the scandal if some enterprising political operative planted this video on Michelle Obama's laptop and then leaked its contents to the media? The Reverend Wright debacle would look like a parking ticket.

Yes. I am that evil.

Bro'bama is lucky that I am on his side 'cause if I was a Republican I would set those wheels in motion yesterday just to see the fallout.

In an acknowledgment of the greatness of said video, I proclaim that Black sisters punishing a white man (a former slave owner for the purposes of the narrative?) with high heels and whips is GREATER than Pastor Manning:

So say we all!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Sarah Palin Made Stupid a Franchise and Took It to the Bank: New York Magazine on the "Palin Industry"

Palin took stupid and made it cool--all to the tune of 12 million dollars.

The New York magazine piece on Palin is well worth a read in its entirety. For the time and energy challenged here are some pithy excerpts that tellingly describe Palin's Svengali-like hold over the confederacy of dunces, the intellectually challenged, and the mediocrity laden fools who pray at her cult of personality:

  • "Palin is a fund-raising machine and a turbocharger for the right-wing base. The party knows she is a possible bridge to the fractious and suspicious tea-party crowd. But Palin’s conspicuous lack of depth—and the sheer joy she takes in what she doesn’t know—is a source of angst among Republicans who see larger brand risk if Palin comes to define the party."
  • "Fox News has turned a disaffected segment of the populace into a market, with the fervor and idiosyncratic truth standards of a cult. Wingnut-ism has been monetized, is one admittedly partisan way of looking at it. Palin stokes the disaffection of her constituents and then, with the help of Fox, offers to heal them, for a price."
  • "Here, as everywhere, the tea party is a carnival where politics and commerce commingle...Then Palin took the stage. “Thank you, tea-party America!” she yelled. “Do you love your freedom?” Palin primed the crowd. “My husband, Todd, is here … I was gonna ask Todd if I could borrow his sunglasses, but I’d have to take these off, though, and it’d make it really rough for me to see the teleprompter, and then I realized, ‘No teleprompter, time to kick it old-school!’ ” She raised her palms marked with pen. “Good thing I remembered how to use a poor man’s version of the teleprompter!” The crowd exploded in cheers. For the next nineteen minutes, Palin worked her true believers into ecstasy."
And yes Virginia, at every tea party there is indeed a slave catcher (or two) in the bunch:
  • A young woman named Bethany Owens was sitting at a small table, pulling bills from a leather satchel. The 20-year-old daughter of black conservative entrepreneurs William and Selena Owens, Bethany had spent the morning at her parents’ booth selling books and CDs, like her mother’s title The Power Within a Conservative Woman ($9.95) and her dad’s motivational CD Answers Beyond the Rhetoric ($19.95). Bethany began stacking up bills, doling them out like a Vegas dealer...“One hundred, two hundred, three, four, five hundred,” she counted. “Ugh! I gotta start over.” “Five, six, seven, eight, nine hundred. Okay, that’s $3,300,” she said, piling bills into neat rows. “Are there corn dogs here, somebody?” yelled Melanie Morgan, a blonde conservative talk-radio host sitting nearby. Just then, Russo informed her that he’d heard Palin had agreed to speak alongside Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh at Morgan’s upcoming charity event for the troops, which would mean more care packages. “Oh my God! This is fabulous. Sal, brilliant. I could cry I’m so happy,” she said. “That’s gonna be so many hundreds of thousands of dollars more.”
I guess, at least in Palin's case, there are indeed second acts in American life.

A Final Point on "the Problem of Slavery": White Americans Like Reparations for Themselves...But Certainly Not for Black People

In light of Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s entry into the debate about reparations and the Black Holocaust, a return to the sharp work by Philip Mazzocco at the University of Ohio on white privilege and reparations seemed especially appropriate. For me, this work is also timely on a personal level as in my seminar today we discussed white privilege, Jane Elliot's classic brown eyed/blue eyed experiment, implicit bias, and white racism.

I generally do not write about my experiences with students, but this week was eye opening--the privileged are comfortable with it, and white folk (men in particular) are doubly so in denying that racial, class, or gender privilege matters at all. It seems that post-racial America is an undiscovered country and will remain so for a long time.

Ironically, did you know that:

  • White folk constantly underestimate the real financial and psychic costs of racism for Black Americans;
  • White respondents support reparations in the abstract but not for the descendants of slaves in America;
  • A majority of White Americans support reparations for themselves if they were disadvantaged by an act committed against one of their ancestors in the past.

The hypocrisy is so glaring as to be blinding.

Whites Underestimate the Costs of Being Black

COLUMBUS, Ohio – How much do white Americans think it “costs” to be black in our society, given the problems associated with racial bias and prejudice?

The answer, it appears, is not much.

When white Americans were asked to imagine how much they would have to be paid to live the rest of their lives as a black person, most requested relatively low amounts, generally less than $10,000.

In contrast, study participants said they would have to be paid about $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

The results suggest most white Americans don't truly comprehend the persisting racial disparities in our country, said Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Mansfield campus.

“The costs of being black in our society are very well documented,” Mazzocco said. “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”

For example, white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family. Overall, total wealth for white families is about five times greater than that of black families, a gap that has persisted for years.

“When whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become black, that suggests they don't really understand the extent to which African Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged,” Mazzocco said.

These results also offer insight as to why more than 9 out of 10 white Americans reject proposals to give reparations to the descendants of slaves, said study co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University.

“Our data suggest that such resistance is not because white Americans are mean and uncaring, morally bankrupt, or ethically flawed,” Banaji said.

“White Americans suffer from a glaring ignorance about what it means to live as a black American.”

The study appears in the current issue of Harvard's Du Bois Review.

The researchers did a series of studies in which a total of 958 whites of different ages and from different parts of the country were asked variations of the same question: “How much should you be paid to continue to live the rest of your life as a black person?”

In most cases, the participants were told to imagine they were actually black, but had always passed for white. The imagined race change required no physical transformation, just a change in public status.

They were also asked how much they should be paid for giving up television, and how much they should be given to change their officially listed state residency (without having to move). These questions were asked, Mazzocco said, to compare what people requested for relatively trivial changes, like a new listed state residency, as compared to a more life-changing request, like giving up television.

Results suggest white people considered a race change as relatively trivial, along the lines of a change in official state residency, as opposed to the seemingly big sacrifice of giving up television.

In some of the studies, the researchers changed the scenario in order to learn more about what white Americans thought about the costs of racial disparities.

One issue with the previous scenario is that participants may minimize the disparities they would face as a black person, because they had always passed as white. So in one study, whites were told to imagine that they were about to be born as a random white person in America, but they were being offered a cash gift to be born as a random black person. Once again, white participants requested relatively small sums to make a life-long race-change. In addition, some were given a list of some of the costs of being black in America, such as the racial wealth disparity. The result was that whites in this latter scenario requested significantly higher amounts than those in the previous studies – about $500,000.

Finally, some participants were given a similar scenario except all references to blacks, whites and America were taken out. They were asked to imagine they were born into the fictional country of Atria, and were born either into the “majority” or “minority” population. They were given a list of the disadvantages that the minority population faced in Atria (which were identical to the real disadvantages faced by blacks in America). In this case, white participants in the study said they should be paid an average of $1 million to be born as a minority member in Atria.

“When you take it out of the black-white context, white Americans seem to fully appreciate the costs associated with the kinds of disparities that African Americans actually face in the United States,” Mazzocco said. “In this case, they asked for a million dollars, similar to what they want for giving up television.”

Mazzocco said blatant prejudice was not the reason for the findings. Results showed that whites who scored higher on a measure of racial prejudice did not answer significantly differently than others in the study.

The researchers are conducting new studies to examine more closely why whites do underestimate the costs of being black. Mazzocco believes many white Americans have a perception that race bias in the United States has been virtually eliminated, and that blacks are no longer disadvantaged.

“While there has been progress in making racial conditions in American more equal, there's clearly a lot more work to be done,” he said. “Blacks and whites are not experiencing the same America.”

When whites do understand the extent of racial disparities in the United States, they are more likely to support reparations. The findings showed that whites who wanted more money to be publicly recognized as black – suggesting they understood the true costs of racial disparity – were more likely than others to say they would support reparations.

But there are many reasons why nearly all whites oppose reparations. Mazzocco said some whites may believe slavery happened so long ago that slave descendants today don't deserve to be compensated. The researchers examined the “too long ago” rationale in another study.

The researchers asked participants to imagine that their great, great grandfather, a wealthy shipping magnate, had been kidnapped about 150 years ago. The kidnappers demanded and received a large ransom that bankrupted the shipping magnate. That ransom was used to start a successful company that still survives today and is worth $100 million. Participants were asked whether they would be willing to be a part of a large suit against the present-day company that could net them each about $5,000.

In this scenario, 61 percent agreed to have their names listed on the lawsuit. The researchers noted that this is about the percentage of blacks today who support reparations for slave descendants.

“When white Americans find it within themselves to say ‘I must be compensated for a past injustice done to me' but the same logic evaporates when the injustice concerns black Americans, they are staring straight at bias,” Banaji said.

Mazzocco said the results of this research have implications for the fledgling reparations movement in America. “Surveys show that 90 to 96 percent of white Americans are against slave descendant reparations. It is nearly impossible to get that many people to agree on anything, so it is an issue that really deserves attention to see why that is. We wanted to take a heated and emotional issue and look at it through a scientific lens,” he said.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Obama Disses White Guys--Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Black Privilege in the Age of Obama


This is one of my favorite posts from last year. I have updated it just a little bit. Nevertheless, this post still rings pitch perfect in how it captures the Conservative, Right-wing histrionics--"Obama is playing the 'race card'"--that have erupted in response to his rallying the base for the upcoming elections.

"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."

The election of Barack Obama has been difficult for many Americans. As Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Pat Buchanan (among many others) have bravely pointed out, White men are experiencing discrimination and unfairness in ways never before imagined. The nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Obama's efforts to broaden the big tent of politics has been very upsetting to the natural order of things.

The Tea Parties and their efforts to "take their America back," as well as Sarah Palin's selfless work to speak for the downtrodden "Real Americans" all hint at a deep problem in America. As this country becomes more diverse and White Americans longer a majority--frighteningly reduced to only a plurality by 2050--it is increasingly clear that we are indeed two Americas, separate hostile, and unequal. In response to these unfair changes, noble voices such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have dared to speak truth to power: White Americans are suffering under Jim Crow 2.0. They are indeed experiencing the same violence and inequality that Black people did for many decades under America's formal and informal systems of white supremacy.

Earlier this week Barack Obama released a video in which he rallied those groups most important to the Democratic Party's future electoral chances--women, young people, Latinos, and African Americans. Speaking directly to those groups he encouraged them to continue with the "great progress" America has made since Obama's election. He explicitly thanked those members of his electoral coalition for their support and appealed to them to help set the Democrats' priorities in 2010. Most importantly, Obama wants young people, minorities, and women to help get out the vote in the upcoming elections, and for (then) new voters from 2008 to stay involved in politics in the future.

We must not run from the obvious. Who was absent from Obama's appeal? White men. If you read the comment sections of such Conservative websites as the Washington Examiner; Breitbart, Politico, and others you can hear the pain of White men, and Conservatives in particular, hurt and angered by how Obama has slighted and excluded them from this grand narrative..

In reflecting on this moment, I am moved to action and ownership of my deeds and thoughts.

For the world to be made more just, we must be willing to be vulnerable to one another. This vulnerability often comes through a moment of profound clarity when a person (across lines of race, gender, class, and sexuality) can reach out to another and without fear of condemnation say, "I was wrong." In listening to the repeated cries of pain and victimhood by White Conservative men living during these first years of the Obama administration, I have finally arrived at a moment of shared empathy and confession. At these times we need one of our own to make our privilege and prejudice clear to us--an ally whose eyes are now open to injustice, one who in turn will shame us into action.

This is the transgressive moment when I will confess to the realities of my own privilege as a Black man in the age of Obama. Are others ready to walk this path with me? Honestly, I do not know. Nevertheless, I will be the first to take on this burden in the hope that my deeds will motivate others.

I can only hope that we as Black Americans, acting in the pursuit of fairness, justice, and equality, can one day make amends for the many unearned privileges that we have garnered since the election of Barack Obama.

Justice is shared work. Community is at the heart of social transformation. I have worked hard to share this list with friends and colleagues and have amended it appropriately. For those of you seeing it for the first time, please feel free to make additions to this list.

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of Black Privilege in the Age of Obama

1. I know that the success of Barack Obama has been unsettling for many White Americans--especially those whom would normally be the default choice for appointment to the highest levels of the United States government. I understand that this change can be quite upsetting. I promise to be more empathetic to your pain and to be more patient in my efforts to understand the roots of your discontent.

2. I have the luxury of knowing that I only have to be twice as good as my White colleagues and peers to be considered for the same position. My broad range of skills are an unfair advantage in the workplace because they have afforded me opportunities to take on tasks and responsibilities that my White colleagues have often been denied.

3. Positive character traits such as humility and hard work are cultivated in me because I know that I am held to a higher standard lest I be considered "lazy" or "arrogant" by my supervisors and peers.

4. People of color have long dominated the evening news. We are disproportionately represented in the coverage of many types of news stories, especially those that feature reports of violent, criminal behavior. Moreover, with Barack Obama's domination of the evening news, the hyper-visibility of people of color is further encouraged in the mainstream media. To remedy this, I will do my best to support an increase in the amount of attention given to White people in the evening news and by popular culture at large.

5. Black communities are afforded far more than their fair share of police protection. White communities can go days without seeing a police officer, but there is never any shortage of protection and service in Black neighborhoods. Our streets are constantly swept for crime and would be criminals. Surely we don't deserve such heightened attention, but we are privileged to receive it nonetheless.

6. People of color are given far more chances to go to prison and take the time to think about their crimes and rehabilitate themselves, than their white counterparts. Often White people are not held responsible for their criminal activity, thus denying the the moral value of learning from their mistakes.

7. I can go shopping most of the time knowing that I will be given extra attention. Furthermore, this extra attention to my safety through requests for identification when I would like to use a credit card or debit card are for my own protection. My fellow White shoppers are not afforded this level of concern or assistance.

8. In my professional life, I am blessed to be around people of a different race most of the time. This is very empowering and stimulating. Ultimately, this is an unearned advantage in a world that is increasingly diverse.

9. A great deal of attention is paid to the driving safety and comfort of Black Americans. The police are very interested in making sure that our cars are in working order, that we do not speed, and that we know exactly why we are driving in certain neighborhoods. It is very hard to get lost while driving in a White neighborhood if you are a Black American. By comparison, White people are treated as though they are invisible, anonymous, and unimportant while they are driving.

10. I am often asked to speak for people of my own race. With Barack Obama's election, I have to do this even more frequently. This privilege is unfair because it contributes to my intellectual, emotional, and social growth in ways that White people are not generally afforded.

11. Linked fate. Barack Obama's success or failure reflects on me personally. Likewise, my success or failure reflects on Barack Obama. This sense of connectedness and lack of relative anonymity is wonderfully empowering for all people of color.

12. If I join the Republican Party I will have a great advantage over my peers. I will receive funding to run against other Black people. I will be placed directly behind many famous Republicans when they give speeches. Black people who join the Republican Party are also guaranteed to be shown on TV at the Republican National Convention, and there is an excellent chance they will be asked to give a speech. Even if you can't win a single election, Black Republicans have job security for life despite their incompetence. This is wrong and unfair to the many White Republicans who have to work at least twice as hard for the same attention and visibility as their Black compatriots in the party.

13. I can find the literature, music, and movies that represent my culture neatly cordoned off and near the front of the store for my convenience.

14. I know that my race is always an asset and never a liability. At will, I can play the "race card" and win any debate or dispute.

Academic Ownage: Eric Foner's Rebuttal to Henry Louis Gates' NY Times Piece on Slavery

Eric Foner is The Hard Master (bonus points if you get the reference).

Smart. Pithy. Short. Efficient. A certifiable damn!...With no small amount of envy on my part.

Two hundred and twelve words of poetry in motion.

For your enjoyment:

Africa’s Role in the U.S. Slave Trade

To the Editor:

In “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game” (Op-Ed, April 23), Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes that African rulers and merchants were deeply complicit in the Atlantic slave trade. Despite Mr. Gates’s contention that “there is very little discussion” of this fact, it hardly qualifies as news; today, virtually every history of slavery and every American history textbook includes this information.

Mr. Gates’s point is that the African role complicates the process of assigning blame for slavery and thus discussion of apologies and reparations by the United States. I believe that apologies serve little purpose and that reparations are unworkable. But the great growth of slavery in this country occurred after the closing of the Atlantic slave trade in 1808.

It was Americans, not Africans, who created in the South the largest, most powerful slave system the modern world has known, a system whose profits accrued not only to slaveholders but also to factory owners and merchants in the North. Africans had nothing to do with the slave trade within the United States, in which an estimated two million men, women and children were sold between 1820 and 1860.

Identifying Africa’s part in the history of slavery does not negate Americans’ responsibility to confront the institution’s central role in our own history.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Running Away from Afrotopia: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the "Slavery Blame Game"

Last night I met up with some nationalist brothers at the local bar. I had met a colleague and we discussed the definition of violence and if Malcolm X was indeed a "liberal democratic thinker" in the tradition of Hobbes, Locke, and the Federalists. After he left, a few others joined the conversation. We talked about Afrocentrism, Kunjufu, Akbar, DuBois and Garvey. They were curious about why I was reading the book Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel (for the same reason that I read Guns, Germs, and Steel--black folk, especially organic intellectuals, need a broad base of knowledge that allows them to think critically and broadly about the world through a lens not always bounded by race).

One of the brothers, a thirtiesh year old, autodidact, ex-military type (and member of the Gangster Disciples) kept asking me "where am I from?" I said Connecticut. He asked again, "where am I from?" I replied my people are from North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Boston. He asked again. I looked at him and said "where am I really from then? My parents?" "No," he replied. "You are from Africa." I smiled. I politely told him that I have no dreams of Africa. For me, Black Americans have so much to celebrate here--all that we created and nurtured in the New World against unbelievable odds and seemingly unending oppression--that to look to some mythic past for inspiration is unnecessary.

Folks who have followed this site know that I have no dreams of finding Afrotopia. I have a deep concern about the "ethnicization" of The Black Experience (specifically, a belief that African and Afro-Caribbeans automatically share a natural affinity for Black Americans--which many do not--and thus should share the fruits of our struggles). I shake my head at the fetishizing of a people and place that becomes "home" for so many (collapsed into one imagined continent that removes nuance, difference, complexity, and contradiction).

Ultimately, I agree that we have long needed a critical conversation about the role of African tribes and nations in the Black Holocaust. However, I don't know if I agree with Gates' conclusion in The New York Times that this conversation somehow ought to work against claims for reparations (there is such overwhelming evidence of systemic structural disadvantage that enfranchises whiteness as property at the expense of blacks in the United States that we need not look back to Africa to make a justice claim). Frankly, I am also a bit suspicious of the how's and why's of Gates' writing this editorial at this moment. Mercenary financial interest? Comment on post-racial America? A signal to the obsolescence of the reparations debate now that we have a President who happens to be black...

What do you think Gates' motivations are?

For your inspection:

Ending the Slavery Blame-Game

THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America’s racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage.

There are many thorny issues to resolve before we can arrive at a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime. Perhaps the most vexing is how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.

While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today’s Congo, among several others.

For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley’s pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.

How did slaves make it to these coastal forts? The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.

Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in “Roots.” The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike.

The editorial continues here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: RIP Guru

Guru was a legend. As hip hop ages we will continue to lose so many more. Time is unkind, but it is fair. But I must say, as tragic as Guru's loss is, it is oddly redeeming and welcome that he died of a disease as opposed to being killed in some street level nonsense. It seems like more grown folk business.

DJ Premier will certainly keep the Gang Starr legacy alive. Guru--gifted universal rhymes unlimited--will live on in song. Although I can be a bit of a Luddite, and have bemoaned the rise of digital DJ culture where any talentless hack with an Ipod and a Mac can claim to be a "DJ" because of Serato, the Internet has allowed us to relive moments once lost to time (unless you happen to find a very lucky tape trader). To point, Mixcloud's wonderful archive.

In honor of Guru and Gang Starr here is a trip down memory lane: Primo on the one's and two's on WBLS circa 1994. Random thought: am I the only one who loved going to The Shadow on Friday and The Tunnel on Sunday night? Second random thought: for folks out there who were dj's before the rise of Cd's and mp3's, did you study folks like Primo, Red Alert, and Funkmaster Flex (back when he was actually great before the lust for tv, Lugz, and branding took over) and tried to replicate their sets and transitions?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Broken Community: Black Teenager Shot Dead and Won't "Snitch" on His Murders

Once more, a society too sick to survive. I won't call this a tragedy. Said knucklehead (I won't use his name because this story can be, and has repeated itself, thousands of times so no need to personalize the story) was a thug, street pirate, and drain on his community. I am tempted to say goodbye to bad rubbish. But, what happens when this rubbish comes to typify a generation and pollute our communities? I won't call him a victim. He made a choice--even in the face of certain "structural" disadvantage--to live the life that he did. Moreover, what of the many more good folk in the same community who don't participate in criminal behavior as a rite of passage and a norm of manhood? Men and women who hustle honestly in a society that does not fairly reward hard work...

Ultimately, victims are the innocent. Said adherent to the cult of "no snitching" was no innocent. The women have reared these baby boy monsters and the men who "fathered" them have utterly failed in their responsibilities as role models and care takers. These absent parents (one can be absent and still be in the home by the way) cannot impart wisdom, character, or moral courage to their sires because they often have little of these resources to offer. To point, notice the denial of the mother, and the willful self-deception that her son was a "good kid."

As my mother and aunt would say, "how can a 35 year old grandmother and a street corner hooligan baby daddy impart wisdom which they do not have?" Sure they can teach you how to survive in your 'hood, but those life skills offer little chance for social mobility and survival outside of a ten block radius.

Something is clearly broken in this country. We are in a moral, ethical, and economic crisis. The empire teeters on a precipice and this anxiety is fueling the spirit of our age, political unconscious, and collective psyche. Something is doubly broken in these ghetto underclass communities, what are often near failed States where black manhood is defined according to antiquated codes of violence and honor that have outlived the social structures and societies that produced them. This needs to be fixed. I am at a loss as to how.

Sometimes black people do make me sad. They truly do.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Police: Even while dying, teen won't talk

Cop asks: Do you know who shot you? He replies: 'I know. But I ain't telling you. . .'

Robert Tate wasn't ever going to snitch -- not even when it came to his own murder, according to the Chicago Police.

Tate, 17, was shot in the chest as someone approached him on a West Side sidewalk on the evening of April 12, police say. Seeing that Tate was wounded badly and probably wouldn't make it, an officer asked: Do you know who shot you?

"I know," Tate told him. "But I ain't telling you s---."

That's according to Harrison Area Police Cmdr. Anthony Riccio, who said the murder investigation is focusing on a possible shooter -- even though Tate took his secret to the grave.

"Unfortunately it's almost a culture among the drug dealers and gang members, that code of silence, that 'don't snitch' mentality that they not only have when they're witnesses, but also when they're the victims," Riccio said.

But Tate's mother Cynthia Washington doesn't buy it.

She doesn't know how her son -- a "very respectful child" -- could have told police anything as he lay dying on the scene in the 900 block of North Avers.

"Why wouldn't he tell them who shot him?" Washington wondered.

Riccio responded that Tate was lucid as he spoke to the officer, then died as paramedics tried to save him.

Riccio said it's commonplace for shooting victims whose wounds aren't life-threatening to refuse to cooperate. Just last week, a 22-year-old gang member was on a bicycle in the 500 block of East 88th when he was shot in the thigh. He didn't even want to report the shooting after he was taken to Stroger Hospital.

"But I have never seen anyone take it to the grave," Riccio said.

Police think Tate was killed because of his involvement in the drug trade in Humboldt Park.

"One of the things from people on the street was that he was ripping off [drug] buyers," Riccio said. "When that happens, of course, the buyers take their business elsewhere, and it affects the drug trade."

So detectives think Tate was killed because he was hurting business. They're reviewing surveillance video from police "blue-light cameras" in the area to identify the shooter, Riccio said.

Tate was "in and out" of Nancy B. Jefferson High School, housed in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, a Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said. He had 14 arrests for drugs, weapons and car theft on his rap sheet; a tattoo that read "Make Money or Die;" and a nickname: "C Murder."

"I didn't give him that name," his mother said.

"He was a good young man who loved his mom," added a friend, Tasha Porter. "Neighborhoods like this are tough to grow up in."

But one detective also said the motto in neighborhoods like Tate's is: "Snitches get stitches."

And Tate is the most extreme example, police say, of the "no-snitching" mind-set they say is making it increasingly difficult to solve murder cases in Chicago. Indeed, the Chicago Police Department's murder-clearance rate dipped from 58 percent to 54 percent last year.

If Tate had talked before he died, police say, his statement most likely could have been used in court. In a practice dating back centuries, a "dying declaration" -- a statement from a dying crime victim naming the killer -- is typically allowed in criminal cases, even though the defendant won't have the opportunity to cross-examine his accuser.

In one notable case, in 1999, 24-year-old Michelle Monachello of Glendale Heights was stabbed, doused with gasoline and set afire in DuPage County. A neighbor called 911 and, as he tried to reassure Monachello, she said, "I'm going to die" and then told him, "My boyfriend -- he set me on fire." The boyfriend, Artarius Jett, got life in prison based in part on what Monachello said before she died.

In recent years, police and community groups have been ratcheting up a campaign urging people to report suspects in crimes -- despite fears of retribution, fear of the police and fear of being labeled a snitch.

Last year, the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church on the South Side put up 20 billboards across the city that read: "Shoot or kill our children? You will be caught." The billboards offered $5,000 rewards for information leading to the conviction of criminals who shot or killed "our children" and urged people to call in anonymously with tips.

Chicago Police now have their own campaign called "Silence Kills." They're asking people to text-message anonymous tips to 274637 or call the police anonymously.

They're urging people to do just that in Robert Tate's case -- even though the teenager wouldn't do it for himself.

Wednesday Afternoon Funny: Pastor Manning Condemns Michael Steele as an Affirmative Action Baby

That's right Obama is a pimp and B-Rock be that dude. I smile as I write this. Brother Manning is forever one upping himself as any mention of that magical man Rasputin gets points from me.

Ultimately, it must be my lucky day to hit the lotto because I agree with Pastor Manning and his condemnation of Michael Steele. Lord, who would have thought!

His words are gold: Swinging on vines. Jumping on trampolines. Manning is such a wordsmith.

By the way I have actually introduced Manning's classic phrase "like monkeys jumping on trampolines," into my rotation of witticisms. Trust me, it works every time all the time.

But before we complement Brother Manning too much, he has to bring us down to Earth. Did you know that Black folk are losers who are jealous of the White Man! Apparently, Pastor Manning--as though we didn't know--is a Black Conservative patriot:

Talk about projection and pathological self-hatred. Where is Fanon when you need him?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A False Flag Operation: On the Lie of Tea Party Tolerance, White Supremacists, and Liberal "Infiltrators"

The Right wing media and the Tea Parties are playing chess while the Left and the mainstream media are playing checkers.

While they can be disparaged as being narrow minded ideologues possessed of an authoritarian personality, Conservatives in the U.S.--and the extreme Right wing that has now become the center of the GOP--have long been masters of using emotional and moral appeals to motivate their public. While the Democrats are hamstrung by an issues based approach to politics, Conservatives have mastered the art of creating an alternate world of political facts and reason (enabled by the Right wing media echo chamber) where the reality based community need not tread.

This week the note being struck is that liberal infiltrators (in the guise of "agent provocateurs") are targeting the Tea Parties in order to smear and discredit them. Without any factual substantiation (and ignoring the racist, bigoted, and violent rhetoric that is common at the Tea Party gatherings) the Right has succeeded in reframing the narrative which surrounds the tea baggers. Now, freed from any responsibility for their own actions, the Tea Parties can point to some imagined villain as being responsible for all things disruptive and violent at their protests.

This is a brilliant move because it frees the tea baggers from any measure of responsibility for their deeds. Consider the simple genius at work here: if someone has a racist sign he/she is an infiltrator; if someone spits on a black congressman "they aren't really one of us" (or alternatively John Lewis was not spat upon because there is no "proof" save for eye witness accounts); if someone incites violence "he isn't a tea bagger, it must be a crazy progressive." Not surprisingly, rather than expose this quackery, most in the media are repeating these narratives without critical intervention or comment.

My claim is not that provocation by liberal instigators is an impossibility. No, the rebuttal should be "so what?" With all of the evidence of how central white racial animus and hostility are to the Tea Party movement, what else could the infiltrators possibly do? What other bad behavior--short of bombings, shootings, and other wanton acts of violence--could they possibly provoke the tea baggers into committing?

An appeal to the liberals as infiltrators strategy is also doubly effective because it inverts the political landscape by making the Tea Parties into victims of Jim Crow 2.0 and Barack Obama's America--those liberals whom despise "the patriots" and the good white folk who only want to exercise their first amendment rights against an "oppressive" and "tyrannical" regime that practices "reverse discrimination" and "pays too much attention" to black people's needs.

The Right has upped the ante. Not content with displacing responsibility onto "liberals" and "progressives" for the brigands in their midst, the Tea Parties are now trying to take the moral high ground as the party of diversity and tolerance. To that end, the tea baggers and their Right wing media arm have been circulating a video of a confrontation between a Tea Party member and an alleged white supremacist. Here the tea bagger confronts the white supremacist and condemns him. While doing so, the Tea Party activist is sticking to a clear script: "the Tea Parties are not racist," that "racism has no place with the Tea Parties," and "that the Tea Party does not concern itself with race." In one 2 minute clip, the Tea Party has created a counter-narrative, one with compelling soundbites, that runs explicitly counter to the popular understanding that the tea baggers are racist xenophobes. This is poetry in motion.

It is also a classic false flag operation. In intelligence and military circles these tactics involve the use of subterfuge and trickery (thus the allusion to a ship flying a "false flag") to create a pretext for military intervention or regime change, for framing events in the service of your own agenda, or more simply for making the public believe that "X" is occurring when it is in reality "Y."

In keeping with this strategy, the "white supremacist" in question (and there will be other videos of similar events released can mark my words) is a Tea Party activist. He is playing the role of the devil in their midst, a cancer to be conveniently exorcised as a way for the Tea Parties to demonstrate their love of diversity and colorblind politics. It is ironic then that the Tea Parties and the Right are sounding an alarm regarding the use of dirty tricks by the Left (Conservatives such as Beck and Limbaugh assert that the Progressives are masters of subterfuge and disruption) where in the United States the truth has been that through programs such as Cointelpro, the forces of elite power and Conservatism have spied on, disrupted, discredited, harassed and even killed members of Left-leaning organizations.

The repackaging of the Tea Parties as tolerant and inclusive political organizations is happening as we speak. It will continue from its own momentum regardless of the facts on the ground. In much the same way that Dr. King has been reimagined by conservatives to be a Republican (notice how Glenn Beck, the Pied Piper for the Tea Parties, is increasingly appropriating both the language and symbolism of The Civil Rights Movement), the tea baggers will be depicted as forces of American virtue and pluralism. As this false flag operation continues to develop, here are a few things to watch for in the upcoming weeks:

  1. More coverage of the "racial diversity" of the Tea Parties. Expect to see the same talking heads and black and brown apologists trotted out on the major networks;
  2. The discussion of agent provocateurs will take on the weight of fact as opposed to speculation;
  3. There will be more videos of white supremacists, nativists, and overt "Birthers" being thrown out of Tea Party rallies;
  4. Simultaneously, there will be a great deal of attention paid to "incidents" where Palin supporters and tea baggers are assaulted by "anti-Tea Party" forces and "agents of the Obama regime";
  5. The Right wing media frame will continue to emphasize their long standing narrative that Conservatives and "real Americans" are "victims" of the Left and Progressives;
  6. Similar to what happened with the ACORN pimp and prostitute scandal (a fraud staged by Breitbart and company), the efforts to "infiltrate" the Tea Parties will be exposed as events planned by the Right;
  7. Loose lips sink ships: one of the "white supremacist" or other "agent provocateurs" will give up the fact that they are on the payroll of someone semi-connected (for reasons of plausible deniability) to the Right wing media and/or political establishment.
Your predictions and thoughts? Pray tell what does your crystal ball reveal for these coming weeks?

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds--C2E2 Day Two: Snakes Eyes is that Dude and Ghetto Nerds Shall Inherit the Earth

In my first C2E2 post an anonymous commenter said I was a hater because I pointed out the problem of obesity among comic book and movie costumers. As a corrective, I will now show some love.

Snake Eyes is that dude is he not? More importantly, for all of the whiteness of geek and nerd culture we are also a kind, loving, and tolerant people. Our people are our people. And where else could I see Snake Eyes in full regalia so tenderly caring for his brother who was differently abled? I saw lots of sights like that. They brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face. Humanity ain't all that bad...when we give in to the best part of who we should be and are:

I finished C2E2 on Saturday (Sunday was a no go...but I did go see Kick Ass). The Cleveland Show panel was amazing! I may be easily impressed, but to see actors so easily move between characters' voices made my day to day code switching so much child-like babble. Random factoid: did you know that Cleveland was voiced by a white guy? Damn cool.

The Ghost Hunters panel was so so. It was ultimately another example of actors speaking through their chosen medium and being limited in other venues. The characters on the show are great on television. But, as leading a room in discussion they were regular guys engaging in a conversation with adoring fans. That is both good and bad in terms of presentation, presence, and oration.

The G.I. Joe panel revealed some future story lines--the Cobra book looks to still outshine the main title by the way. The editors and writers present were also unusually accommodating. Me being the difficult negro had to ask about 9/11 and how Al-Qaeda as a real force impacts how they write Cobra as a fictional threat. Funny, in a sea of fanboy comments, the G.I. Joe staff seemed to perk up at a serious question and worked through it for a good amount of time.

Finally, the Af-Am comics section was great. They had some of the founders of that great tradition in the house. Random thought: Am I a hater because I am tired of the "pat on the back at every little accomplishment tradition" that is required when "black pioneers" are in the house. At times, it seemed like a church service with too much chatting and hand clapping. This respectable negro had some serious questions to ask and was quickly tired of the theatrics of yee old black church imported into what should have been a serious conversation. That having been said, I give love where love is due.

For my two cents C2E2 was a success. Hopefully, this tradition will continue next year and for the foreseeable future. I have no fault with the lineup of guests...although more spacing between presentations would be great and a few more social activities on site even more warranted.

I enjoyed sharing my work at the Comics Institute and hope that those in attendance enjoyed my presentation. Comics are literature. It has taken a long time, but events like C2E2 bring us one more step closer to the mainstream acknowledging that fact.

It is good to be a ghetto nerd. In the 21st century the geeks shall indeed inherit the Earth.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Sort of Funny: Tea Party Tax Day Hip Hop Performance Gone Right?

When I was teaching a course on hip hop culture a few years ago one of my students asked me to define "flow." If I was teaching the class now, I would have shown him this video and said "flow is the exact opposite of what these guys have."

No taxation without representation? Me says I be confused. Regardless of the validity of the tea baggers implied claim, you do have to admire the gall with which those knuckledraggers so recklessly and easily appropriate history to serve their political ends.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chauncey DeVega's World of Ghetto Nerds: Obese Leia, Fat Tie Fighter Pilots, and a None Too Slim Rogue at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo

Who is the bigger nerd? The nerd or the nerd who follows him?

I did my thing at the Chicago Comic Book and Entertainment Expo. I do have to say that given the limitations of time I "knicked it out the box" as the expression goes. Sure there is an irrepressible whiteness to these events (some folks don't yet know about we ghetto nerds). And I do so enjoy the moment when nerds of the Caucasian persuasion meet me and are visibly surprised that they are going to hear a lecture on comic books and graphic novels by (yikes!) a black guy. But all in all, the Con's first day was lots of fun.

I didn't get to see any of the main panels because I was busy getting myself ready for my presentation. But tomorrow I am checking out The Cleveland Show round table, getting some pics with the cast of the original Star Wars trilogy, and making sure to touch base with Alex Ross at the autograph table.

Comic book and fantasy conventions are also a hell of a lot of fun because they are great people watching. Because it is a large gathering of folk, many of whom are socially marginalized in their day to day lives (and don't get to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh all too often), it is like band camp for geeks. Undoubtedly, there are lascivious pleasures indulged in by people in costumes of varying quality that would tempt the senses, raise the libido to a fever pitch, and scar the soul. There are also sights to behold that burn the eyes...

Thank God she didn't wear Leia's slave girl outfit:

Do they make the Tie Interceptor in an XXL model? Is this a TIE pilot who serves during the New Republic era when Imperial recruitment standards have apparently slipped?

Come on Rogue, you got's to get rid of the camel toe and work out those abs if you are going to be in the X-Men!

If any of you--my respectable negro friends and ghetto nerds--are going to be in town for C2E2 send me an email and we can get together and build. May the force be with you, always.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Let's Have a Sing Along! John Lewis is a Liar: Not Surprisingly Thomas Sowell and Ward Connerly Excuse Away Tea Party Racism

Let's go to a dark place for a moment...

I have been busy getting ready for a talk at the Chicago Comic Book and Entertainment Expo so I have been absent the last few days. So, a quick thought for the weekend:

I love Brother Richard Pryor's classic routine on the word nigger. He went to Africa and had a transformative moment of critical self reflection: there are no niggers. The word is an ugly, debasing, and foul thing that has been used to dehumanize black people. My parents were devotees of Richard and as is required for respectable negroes I was raised to rarely if ever use that word. With that allowance, I also do not like the immaturity of its contemporary substitute, "the n-word." It is childish.

We have so policed our language that to utter the dreaded "n-word" even in context is considered a hostile act, one anathema to civil discourse. For example, my students look aghast when I say "nigger" while reading a text in which it was used, or repeating what the tea baggers yelled at Representative John Lewis. My logic? We need to hear the ugliness of a thing in order to understand the hatred behind it. We need to read it aloud when printed so that we can grapple with how white supremacy has been the norm in this society.

But, what of people whose behavior fits the word? (I will leave those criteria up to you)

More specifically, what of folks whom at one time would have been called "Uncle Toms" or "Handkerchief Heads?" Does the dreaded "n-word" describe them? The new age slave catchers? Do they fit the bill?

And being really provocative, and also because I have been playing with this so taboo idea, are black apologists for the Tea Party's racism the white man's niggers? Is Thomas Sowell (who says that John Lewis is a liar) one? Is Ward Connerly, black Judas that he is, a white man's nigger?

From The National Review:

Inestimable Harm

The national debate about health-care insurance has underscored one indisputable fact: In every way imaginable — socially, ideologically, culturally, politically, and financially — the American public is profoundly divided. There is one area of division that is starker, more enduring, more contentious, and with greater potential to leave lasting scars than others; and that is the area of race. Each of the other factors of American life intersects with race, thereby compounding its effect upon all Americans.

If I have learned one thing from life, it is that race is the engine that drives the political Left. When all else fails, that segment of America goes to the default position of using race to achieve its objectives. In the courtrooms, on college campuses, and, most especially, in our politics, race is a central theme. Where it does not naturally rise to the surface, there are those who will manufacture and amplify it.

Such is the case with the claims that the “Tea Partiers” are a bunch of racists and that many of them spat upon members of the Congressional Black Caucus and called them “n*****s.” I am convinced beyond any doubt that all of this is part of the strategic plan being implemented by the Left in its current campaign to remake America.

In a video that has been played repeatedly showing CBC members as they walked past the tea partiers, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is seen using his telephone to tape the event. If he had any evidence to corroborate the racial claims, why hasn’t he come forward with his phone by now to settle this matter? I believe we all know the answer.

I agree with earlier Corner posts on the matter: By their reckless accusations, those who are alleging “racism” without evidence are doing inestimable harm to the social fabric of America.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Personal Hot Tub Time Machine: Newsweek Magazine's the State of Black America in 1999

Do you ever marvel at how folks in the past envisioned the future? In the 1960s we thought that in the 1990s there would be flying cars a la The Jetsons. In the 1980s we thought that the 21st century would be radically different with Blade Runner like urban sprawl and dystopia the norm where everyone spoke some version of Japanese. We got some things right (the rise of 3rd world mega cities) and a great deal wrong (Japan's lost decade; the rise and fall and rise again of the U.S.; Ipod's; the Internet, and the fall of the Soviet Union).

What of the state of Black America? I would never have guessed that we would see a Black President--never mind one named Barack Hussein Obama--in my lifetime. But as we reach for the future, many of our concerns, hopes, and dreams seem to remain a changing same. For example, I was reading Newsweek online and in the sidebar of most viewed stories was "The Good News About Black America." Given this economy my curiosity was piqued. Funny, I read about a page or so before realizing that this story was written in 1999...more than ten years ago. For a moment, I had my own personal hot tub time machine.

Give it a look. What has changed? And what perhaps never will? I do wonder, what will the State of Black America be in the year 2020?

The Good News About Black America

It's The Best Time Ever To Be Black In America. Crime Is Down; Jobs And Income Are Up. White Kids Choose African-Americans As Their Heroes. But Not Everyone's Celebrating.

by Ellis Cose

It was a stunning vision of racial equality, manifested in a simple yet stirring mantra: "I have a dream." Though Martin Luther King Jr.'s cherished utopia has not arrived, it seems considerably less remote than it did in August 1963 when, from the Washington Mall, King challenged America to make his dream come true. African-Americans are no longer relegated, as he lamented, to "a lonely island of poverty" in the midst of plenty. By a wide array of measures, now is a great time--the best time ever--to be black in America.

Black employment and home ownership are up. Murders and other violent crimes are down. Reading and math proficiency are climbing. Out-of-wedlock births are at their lowest rate in four decades. Fewer blacks are on welfare than at any point in recent memory. More are in college than at any point in history. And the percentage of black families living below the poverty line is the lowest it has been since the Census Bureau began keeping separate black poverty statistics in 1967. Even for some of the most persistently unfortunate--uneducated black men between 16 and 24--jobs are opening up, according to a just-released study of hard-luck cases in 322 urban areas by researchers at Harvard University and the College of William and Mary.

More and more blacks have entered the realm of the privileged and have offices in (or tantalizingly near to) the corridors of corporate and political power. Some control multimillion-dollar budgets and reside in luxurious gated communities. They are, by any criteria, living large--walking testaments to the transformative power, to the possibility, of America.

"I really think there is a new phenomenon out there," says Eddie Williams, head of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the nation's premier think tank on blacks and politics. According to the center, the number of black elected officials has nearly sextupled since 1970, and now stands at roughly 9,000. In a poll late last year by the Joint Center, blacks were more likely than whites--for the first time in the history of this survey--to say they were better off financially than in the previous year (51 percent compared with 31.5 percent). A new NEWSWEEK Poll confirms that the finding is not a fluke. Seventy-one percent of blacks (compared with 59 percent of whites) told NEWSWEEK's pollsters that they expected their family incomes to rise during the next 10 years. Fifty-seven percent of blacks (compared with 48 percent of whites) foresaw better job opportunities ahead. As Los Angeles gangbanger turned music entrepreneur Darrin Butler, 28, sums it up, "From where I'm sitting, everything is looking bright."

This sunniness is reflected in the country's popular imagination, which freely celebrates the appeal and accomplishments of African-Americans. Michael Jordan, Lauryn Hill, Colin Powell--pick your icon; if you are touched at all by American culture your idol is likely to be black. There have always been black successes and superstar achievers, but never before has black been quite so beautiful to so many admirers of every hue. "When did you ever think you would see black men as the heroes of white children?" asks Bobby William Austin, head of the Village Foundation, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit that runs programs for young black men.

Today's upswing in black fortune is unfolding in a singular context, against the backdrop of a superheated economy that has been booming since April 1991. That expansion, the longest ever in a time of peace, has been a boon to Americans of every race. It would be a mistake, however, to credit the economy alone for the sense of hope sprouting in many black communities. Even as the strong economy has made bigger dreams possible, a strong resurgence of black self-confidence and self-determination has made their realization more probable. Indeed, blacks polled by NEWSWEEK credited black churches (46 percent) and black self-help (41 percent) for the upturn in black conditions. It would also be a mistake to assume that today's good times have brought good tidings to all blacks. They have not. More black men than ever languish in prisons. Black academic achievement stills lags that of whites. And suicides among young black men have risen sharply, reflecting a deep "sense of hopelessness," says Jewelle Taylor Gibbs, a psychologist and University of California, Berkeley, professor. And fear is pervasive that an economic downturn--or the legal-political assault on affirmative action--could wipe out blacks' tenuous gains.